For every woman who places a child for adoption, there is also a man.
Regardless of his involvement in the pregnancy and placement, he still exists. He is just as much a part of the child as the mother is. Contrary to what you might think, many birth fathers do choose to stick around and work with the birth mother on an adoption plan. Placing a child for adoption is a huge loss, and birth fathers feel it too. I spoke with several birth fathers about their stories, and how they have coped with the loss of adoption. No story is the same, but there were a few common threads.
It’s important to note that the grief of a birth father is in some ways different than that of a birth mother. A birth mother physically carries her child for nine months. She has a constant physical reminder of the child, even after she gives birth. A birth father doesn’t have that. This does not necessarily mean it is easier for him. In the words of one birth father, “[She] had them for nine months. I got to hold them for three days and then…they were gone.” His heart was broken that he wasn’t able to bond with his birth children in the same way that she could.
The lack of physical connection with the child can be heartbreaking. Many of the birth fathers I spoke with reported feeling somewhat detached from the situation. Even if they were present the whole time, not physically carrying the child meant that they didn’t bond emotionally with the baby. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Some men said that it made placement easier because they recognized logically that their child was getting a better life, and since they didn’t bond, it was easier to say goodbye. Others regret the fact that they didn’t bond with the baby and wish they felt a stronger connection to their birth child.
Another reason that you hear less about the grief of birth fathers is that they tend to not show it as much. Almost all of the men I talked to told me that their main concern was the birth mother and her grief. A man wants to be strong for the mother of his child. Most of them feel that showing their own grief will not help the birth mother, so they deal with it privately.
An adoption placement means that a father lost his baby. That matters. Even if he handles it differently than a birth mother would, his grief is there. It’s real, and it matters. Birth fathers deserve just as much love and support as birth mothers. And just like there is hope for birth mothers to heal and lead happy lives, it’s possible for birth fathers to do the same.
Most of the birth fathers I spoke with have gone on to have careers, marriages, and children that they parent. They can be proud of themselves; they did not abandon their birth child. They did the very best that they could to ensure that their biological child had the best life possible. They grieve for them, but they are strong. Real men do everything in their power to protect those that they care about, and that’s exactly what a birth father does.